It's only a mere seven games into the season, and the tired narrative of bullpen mediocrity is already alive and well. The Toronto Blue Jays record stands at 3-4 with three of those four losses coming via the blown save--a mark tying for the league lead.
Until Sunday's victory over the Red Sox in the final game of the home-opening series, the Jays bullpen was a ticking time bomb that's only consistent feature was Roberto Osuna coming out to save the 9th inning. It's why he's received the most appearances and innings pitched of any Jays reliever this season as manager John Gibbons struggles to understand the options he has.
But fear not. Managing a group of men, six of which are completely new to you, is not a simple task. It takes time, a lot more than the informal schedule of spring training can provide, to understand what exactly you have to employ in the later innings of ball games. This is why Jays fans should exercise a little patience with Gibbons and the bullpen before making any concrete judgements, picking up the pitch forks, and advocating for Gibbons to lose his job.
Every year it seems, and on every team, managers seem to have 'their' guy. While I typically like to follow the more positivist approach (that is, one based in analytics and quantifiable observations), it seems managers can fall in love with a player, relying on him whenever the situation is dire and potentially overusing them. Besides Osuna, it seemed last year Liam Hendriks was one of his guys, pitching the second most innings of any reliever on the Jays roster. Aaron Sanchez now firmly placed in the starting rotation makes it increasingly difficult for Gibbons to find his man this season.
It's not that there's something inherently wrong with having, 'a guy.' With everything in life, there are certain people that are going to be more trustworthy than others which is how relationships are formed. The problem that we're experiencing right now though is that Gibbons doesn't yet know who those are that should be trusted. Osuna is Osuna, but what about Drew Storen, the pitcher who battled Osuna throughout spring training for the closer's role? In his 2.1 innings of work so far, he's held just a 7.71 ERA. Same goes for Gavin Floyd, who's ERA is identical to Storen's despite a remarkably high strikeout rate.
One who Gibbons has tried to instil some trust in is newcomer Jesse Chavez. In his two innings of work, his ERA looks acceptable at 4.50 but that also masks his poor performance against Boston when he allowed a grand slam to the first batter, giving up three of Marcus Stroman's runs in the process.
Right now, there's a lot of uncertainty when it comes to bridging the gap between the day's starting pitcher and closer Osuna, but that won't last forever. At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, Gibbons is going to find a non-Osuna reliever that he believes in and run him out there on a consistent and predictable basis. Give it a little bit of time for Gibbons to take stock of what he has and determine the best way to employ them in late innings.
If he proves unable to do that then hit the panic button. If you don't, I will.